Picturing Light: The Paintings of Richard Vaux

Richard Vaux, HORIZON I, acrylic on vinyl 46 × 86 in.

Throughout the years, historians and art critics have described the art of Richard Vaux as Formalist, Romanticist and Impressionist. He is certainly all of these but, above all, his abstract construction of space and the use of light make him a true Abstract Impressionist.

In a 1993 essay, art historian Irma B. Jaffe refers to the art of Richard Vaux as:

“Light. Lightness. Immaterial. Material.

Entering the radiant environment created by the paintings of Richard Vaux in his studio or in a gallery where his work is installed is to move into a space that engages one wholly. Thoughts, feelings, memories, sensations flow together, immersing the viewer in a familiar atmosphere that permits instant empathy with the luminous reality of the art – created space. This is a space that must be understood as a metaphor for the real world of nature before which Richard Vaux, as artist, stands gazing, like a lover, and which he strives to possess by giving himself to his love. Nature, obedient to the touch, gentle or ardent, of this suitor, has given him, over and over again, what he has sought, over and over again – her ineffable lightness of being.”

Professor Jaffe continues,

“Light. Lightness. Material. Immaterial. These are the fundamental dualities that surround the viewer and set off complex responses that draw deeply from the well of aesthetic experience. The paintings absorb and radiate light, and one finds oneself in a world resonating with the echoes of religion, philosophy, and the natural wonders. Surrounded by Vaux’s paintings one is called to remember that light as Truth, as Goodness, and as Beauty has its own long history in philosophy.

“The artist lives near the sea, on Long Island, in a house built on a rise of land. From his windows he can see far into the distance over the low horizontal, undulating landscape. Perhaps it is this situation that has led him to interpret in modern terms the traditional notion of art as a view through a window.

“While not overtly religious, the sacred implications of the paintings of Richard Vaux seem ineluctable. He has given his inborn gift to nature. He has celebrated her minutiae and her grandeur, her openness and her mystery. Is not every serious celebration an acknowledgement of transcendence?”

In 2015, Richard Vaux relocated his studios from Long Island to the Western Reserve region of Northeast Ohio, directly south of the inland sea called Lake Erie.

*Dr. Irma B. Jaffe was art history professor emeritus at Fordham University, New York. She passed away in 2018.


Reception 5:30–8pm Saturday, August 17



Massillon Museum

121 Lincoln Way, East

Massillon, Ohio 44646